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Interview: Haley & Michaels discuss Hail Mary, lockdown and getting back to the UK

The duo chatted to us recently about their crazy 2020 so far.

Haley & Michaels
Credit: Hickory Records

Haley & Michaels – Shannon Haley and Ryan Michaels – are a Nashville-based Country music duo that originally hails from California.

The duo made it to the UK in March for their first shows here at C2C: Country to Country but didn’t manage to play when the event was postponed until next year. Their debut album Hail Mary was released in November last year and since lockdown began, the duo has been performing live streams including one for Destination Country recently.

I caught up with Haley & Michaels to talk about their new single Hail Mary, find out what they’ve been doing in lockdown and to discuss their plans to get back to the UK in the future…

You came to the UK for C2C this year but sadly didn’t get to perform as it was postponed. That must have been disappointing for you?

Shannon: It was absolutely disappointing, especially because we’ve heard about C2C for so long and we were so excited to have our first performance there. But we always try to focus on the positive things in life when we can and one thing that was at least really good for us is that we got to rehearse a lot with our band that we now have in the UK so everybody’s ready for the next time. It was really wonderful because we got to perform live on BBC Radio 2, which probably wouldn’t have happened if the festival hadn’t been canceled.

Ryan: The legendary Whispering Bob, along with Mark Hagen, hosted the Radio 2 to country festival. For us it was bittersweet because on one hand, it had been a lifelong dream to to meet Bob and to be on Radio 2 so that was a dream come true. But on the flip side, of course, we were there and so excited. The reason that we were so excited to come over there is this passion that we feel from the fans. It feels like there’s this immense passion for not only country music, but for new music. It feels like the fans are a part of the discovery process. We were mostly excited to perform and to meet them and disappointed for ourselves, but really disappointed for them because you could feel how excited they were. That’s not always the case anymore with live music. We’ve obviously had some incredible experiences over here in the US but we do feel a particular enthusiasm from UK…

Shannon: …and appreciation for music.

I’m not sure if you know but a large group of people who were going to C2C organised their own get together and live shows with some of the acts once the postponement was announced…

Shannon: That’s incredible! You just don’t let it get you down! (laughs)

Ryan: I think that’s really telling and that’s why we cannot wait to to come back. As Shannon said, the fact that we already have a band over there and now we have lots of friends over there. We have an entire team and management over there. We’re really excited about having pieces in place to build off of.

Haley & Michaels

Credit: Hickory Records

As you mentioned this pandemic has created opportunities too and you’ve been doing live streams, including one for Destination Country. How have you found adapting to performing virtually without having a physical audience there?

Shannon: It’s absolutely different. One thing that I’ve been surprised by is how connected it does still feel. I think part of it is just having the comments section and being able to interact with people as we’re going along, and to get questions and to answer in the middle of the performance. That’s something that you don’t really get to do on stage right? No one can raise their hand in the middle of a concert and then ask a question. There’s kind of an intimacy that is now a part of these concerts that is a different type of intimacy, right? You’re not seeing people and sharing that all in the same space but we are able to have a different level of interaction and I’ve been surprised at how rewarding that has been.

Performers feed off the energy of the crowd so it must be quite strange to get to the end of a song and be met with silence…

Ryan: It was so strange for us that we actually went out and bought a device that we’re gonna start using and I’m about to show you an example for the next time we do a Destination Country thing. (Ryan plays audience applause and laughs)

Shannon: We actually are quite used to singing without getting any type of response because we normally practice for our cats, and they are very unenthusiastic at the end of our music (laughs).

Ryan: So this is even even better than that because I can press a button, especially if the song doesn’t go over very well! I’m kidding… but I’m not! What it does is it forces you to understand the technology, which I think is important. I think things were already heading this way, not instead of live events of course, but in addition to, it has opened up lots of new ways for us to reach people. Our intention is to make multiple trips a year over to the UK but in some ways things like the Destination Country live stream has changed the landscape because we’re able to keep building our fan base over there even during the pandemic. It’s something that I know we’re really enjoying and that we certainly hope will stick when all is said and done.

On the Destination Country live stream you announced Hail Mary as the new UK single, which made a lot of people happy. Why did you chose to put that track over here now?

Shannon: We’re really excited to have that track out. We wrote that song about overcoming adversities in our lives, personally and professionally. It had one meaning to us then but I think that now with what’s going on with the world, it’s taken on a little bit of a different meaning. We thought that it would be the perfect time to release a song that hopefully sent an uplifting message to people that even though things are are tough right now that we’re going to get through it and if we’re going down, we’re going to go down swinging. It just felt like it would be a really nice time to put that type of message out there.

The song is in the Netflix movie, Walk. Ride. Rodeo. How did that opportunity come about?

Ryan: That was so incredible for us because we did not have a plan for how we were going to release the song. We only knew that it was a personal song to us and a special song and it had to feel right. We got a call literally out of nowhere that the film and TV supervisor Gerry Gershman with Netflix had come across Hail Mary and that the team over there just thought it was perfect for the message. For us when we learned the story about Amberley Snyder, who the movie is about, this incredible inspiring true story, it felt like the absolute perfect way for us to release the song. That really propelled the song here on to radio and to a couple million streams on Spotify, and it got us included in the halftime on Monday Night Football with the San Francisco 49ers. It was just the perfect way for us to get out there with something we really believed in.

What an amazing opportunity in terms of of awareness. Have you found that more people are discovering your music as a result of the film?

Ryan: Yeah, we definitely have and we’ve definitely seen a spike in the numbers. There seems to be a significant correlation with Netflix. We can’t announce this yet but we can, as a little teaser, tell you we’re actually getting ready to announce something we’re doing with Netflix, and with Amberley Snyder, to promote Walk. Ride. Rodeo. and Hail Mary in the UK.

Shannon: Fans will get to be a part of it too so that will be really fun!

Haley & Michaels

Credit: Jon-Paul Bruno

One of the other things that you showed off on the Destination Country live stream is the baby bump. How is the bump doing?

Shannon: It just keeps growing. That’s the thing about these bumps (laughing). I was laughing this morning because I think I’m developing a waddle when I walk now because she’s getting big. It’s a really fun time and also kind of a strange time to be pregnant because we have not really seen any other human beings except for virtually. It’s a blessing and we’re really, really excited for her to arrive into the world.

I was speaking to former American Idol star Colton Dixon recently as he and his wife are expecting this year too, and we were discussing how incredible it is that he can be at home with his wife throughout her pregnancy due to lockdown. Is this a special time for you two to be able to go through this without the distractions of being on the road?

Shannon: Absolutely. We’ve talked about how, of course, we wish that this were not happening because it’s been affecting so many people negatively. At the same time because it is happening, we’re focusing on the things that are gifts. It really is truly a gift to get to be at home. We’ve spent the past two years traveling to 160 cities via planes and we’ve been in many, many Courtyard Marriott lobbies driving hours and hours and just touring. I think about being able to be here and actually settling in and being with each other. It has been a great gift.

Ryan: Like Shannon said, obviously when you add the pandemic on it, it’s hard sometimes even really to fathom. First and foremost being here together and just having time to really enjoy it and feel it. The music industry is so fast paced and in our case now we’ve been traveling all over the US and overseas as well. We’re really enthusiastic about that but I think in some ways this feels like a nice time to catch our breath from a few years of non-stop (touring) and really appreciate this and rejuvenate so when we get out there, hopefully we can be out there with all the energy that is required to keep going. We’ll gladly take a chance to catch our breath while continuing to connect with people virtually.

This is going to be one well traveled baby isn’t it once the pandemic comes to an end and you can travel around the world again?

Shannon: She’s gonna have to learn to sleep in many, many different places (laughs).

Ryan: We were talking about it because we have so many friends now in the UK and so much of what we’ve been focusing on, just because of our own excitement honestly, is in the UK. We’re not even sure she’s gonna know exactly where she’s from (laughs).

Shannon: She’ll have a few homes (laughs).

Well, you’ve got a team of babysitters when you come to the UK, haven’t you? There’s four of us in Destination Country and one of us is always available to help you…

Shannon: Well thank you!

(laughter from both)

Have you been able to find time to be creative during this time?

Shannon: Yeah, it’s actually been surprising and nice that we’ve been able to write songs over Zoom. That’s also been a gift because we’ve written with a few amazing writers from the UK. We’ve been on our computers in the same room, even though we’re countries and hours apart with the time zones. That I think is something that we normally would not have thought to do. I remember that we had that writing session scheduled for our trip in March around C2C and when it canceled, we were all disappointed and then once people started Zooming, we realised maybe we could Zoom. It really started a relationship and a writing connection and chemistry so we’ve written a few songs now. We’re writing about two or three times a week over Zoom with different people and it’s been great.

Ryan: I’d say about half of those writes in the UK so we’re really enjoying that part of it.

Haley & Michaels’ debut album Hail Mary and their new single, the title track, are out now. Watch the Hail Mary video below:

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